News / Arts & Entertainment

Palestinians Unite Behind Gaza Strip 'Arab Idol' Star

A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
x
A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
Reuters
— The fractious factions in the Gaza Strip and across the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories have found one voice to unite behind - a 22-year-old youth singing songs about a lost homeland on the Middle East's version of 'American Idol'.
 
Gaza native Mohammed Assaf has become the first Palestinian to qualify for 'Arab Idol', a TV talent show staged in Beirut, in which singers perform for judges and voting viewers.
 
He is now one of the last 10 contestants - largely thanks to his potent mix of good looks and emotional lyrics about ancestral Palestinian lands.
 
“He is the pride of Palestine. He broke the siege with his voice,'' said fan Rehaf al-Batniji, referring to Israel's blockade of Gaza, seized by the Jewish state, along with the West Bank, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
 
She stood in front of a large mural of Assaf at a Gaza restaurant, one of hundreds of posters covering buildings and walls usually marked with political slogans.
 
Assaf's songs blare out of radios - a counter-balance to their usual broadcasts of bleak economic and political news.
 
Politicians have raced to endorse him and Palestinian mobile phone company Jawwal has cut the price of text messages to make it easier for supporters to vote.
 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from the Fatah movement that holds sway in the West Bank, phoned the singer in Beirut and urged all Arabs to vote for him.
 
“The president stressed his support and backing to artist Assaf, whose talent represented pride to Palestine,'' said a statement by the Palestinian official news agency WAFA.
 
The Gaza Strip is ruled by the rival Islamist Hamas faction - a group that disapproves of non-Islamic songs and the kind of Western-style excess on full display in TV talent shows.
 
But even Hamas has come as close as it possibly can to showing support.
 
“He comes from a good, respected and known family,'' Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Facebook.
 
Assaf first made his name inside Gaza at the age of 11, when he recorded a song in 2001 called “O Town be Strong'', at the height of Israeli incursions in the enclave during a Palestinian uprising.
 
On Arab Idol, broadcast by Saudi-owned MBC Group, he has performed with a traditional black-and-white Palestinian scarf around his shoulders.
 
His performances have included “Flying Bird'' which lists the cities of historical Palestine and another song urging Palestinians to unite.
 
The program's celebrity judges from across the Arab world - where the Palestinian cause reverberates - have piled praise on the singer.
 
“I see the Arab idol standing before my eyes,'' said Egyptian composer Hassan El Shafei.
 
“Your voice is made of diamond,'' added Ahlam, a famous singer from the United Arab Emirates.
 
Listening in was Assaf's mother, Umm Shadi Assaf, watching the show in a restaurant near her home in Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp.
 
Her son had only one wish, she told Reuters, beaming with pride, “to go out and make the world listen to his voice''.

You May Like

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: fred from: Australia
May 14, 2013 9:13 AM
Iam very proud of the palestenian singer mohammed assaf brinig unity among palestenian and hopefuly can bring peace with the jewish people .Its about time both side should have harmony and love songs intead of killing each other ..the whole world want to see peace and hipe ASSAF can make the diffrences ....

In Response

by: spring-cleaner from: springfield, ca
May 20, 2013 6:16 PM
yours is about the kindest, finest, and non-politicaly-charged posts that i have seen in the past 15 years.

there are so many israelis that are also singers, artists, doctors, scientists, etc that wish the very same thing. To pursue the goal of peace. Bless you.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."